A vignette in the life of DrDrA

I’m currently unable to put together a blog post. Why?

I think I ‘m just wiped out from doing two monster experiments and going to study section sandwiched in between. The two monster experiments went very, very well- I’m pleased and relieved by that. Apparently I still have my surgery skills, so that D.V.M. on my wall still means something. The team performed remarkably well, and the first part of the analysis looks very good. Now we await the second part of the analysis- … that will lead us to further monster experiments. And I’m not even quite finished compiling all the data from the monster experiment #1, and trying to fit all this in with my daily life.

What daily life you ask? Soccer, taking my 12-going-on 15 year old to the mall with a friend, supplying DrMrA with plants for the yard… because spring planting is happening right now, and attempting to keep food in the fridge and meals on the table . In the in between down times I just sort of sit staring out the window, thankful for the peaceful, quiet moment- but still somewhat unable to collect myself. Immediately after the second monster experiment (like I got home at 1 am and at 3:30 am), littleA came to my bedside with a raging fever. Three days later we all emerged from the sleeplessness of  juggling two busy working schedules and a sick child. She’s fine now, thanks for asking. Needless to say that in the last two three weeks I’ve given up going to the gym, which has been very bad for my level of anxiety. I’ll get back on that horse this week, with any luck.

So there you go. I guess I just wrote a blog post: A vignette of the life of a scientist-mom. It always seems that the more I get done, the more there is to do. Despite my exhaustion at times, I really do enjoy it though.

Nature Networks allows use of ‘dreaded’ pseudonyms

I just noticed this today, and I had to do a double- take. Nature Networks is allowing a blogger it blog under a pseudonym. You can see what I’m talking about here.  Grrlscientist, who also writes pseudonymously over at Scienceblogs- now has a second pseudonymously written blog at Nature Network.

Two blogs is 2x the fun, so more power to her- but I’m just puzzled by one teeny tiny little thing. NATURE NETWORKS?! Those folks have a policy of not allowing anonymous or pseudonymous comments- you have to register and log in over there to comment. Uh huh- here is their policy verbatim:

Be yourself

Be honest in representing yourself and your views. Use your real and full name when creating a profile and posting comments.

Ya know- that would be enough, I suppose, but there has been incredibly heated conversation in the comment section of some NN blog posts about the undesirability and dangers of allowing commenting under anything other than real names. Some of the most strident and forceful arguments in favor of making everyone use their real name have come from a selection of Nature Network bloggers themselves.

Can I just quote Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature, made on this otherwise unrelated celebratory post:

In my view I think it’s appropriate for NN to ask people to register before they leave comments. Given the general standard of comments on Science Blogs, or lack of it, pre-registration could act to weed out potential trolls, as well as draw attention to our community guidelines – and, people, guidelines are necessary. Even those who proclaim loudly that guidelines represent the imposition of a white male patriarchy find themselves having to use them (do I smell hypocristy?). If you only want to weight comments by quantity, then by all means pile ’em high – but you’ll sell ’em cheap. Here at NN we go for quality. I like to think that NN is like ScienceBlogs, only for grownups …

So let me get this straight- you can blog under a pseudonym at NN, but they won’t allow commenting that way?

Ummmm. Hypocrisy indeed.

I’ve fallen into a mountain of data and I can’t get out!

I number of inquiries about my whereabouts after that last post prompt me to let you know that I’m fine- just a tad occupied. I’ve even given up answering too much email for the moment, and I’ve not even checked twitter in about a week.

The monster experiment was *beautiful* from a technical standpoint. The team operated exquisitely, and although we have places where we can do better when we repeat this thing, We are currently processing a mountain of samples, and processing the data is going to take a while. Next week we repeat the whole deal.

I’ll blog. I promise I will. I just need a breather. Your continued patience (and all your concern) is most appreciated!

Experimental moment of truth

Stress related post, read on with that understanding.

We are doing a HUGE and hugely complex experiment tomorrow that requires us to function as a team. Me and one other team member know the drill, but the rest of the team is new to the protocol. I won’t be able to touch anything except my little part tomorrow- so I’m nervous about how everything will go and about not being able to do much more than direct (no live demos) from where I’ll be stuck.

We’ve planned, we’ve trained, we’ve met, we’ve scheduled, we’ve prepared everything we can think of. We’ve been troubleshooting one pesky pain-in-the-ass problem for the last 6 weeks. Everyone in the lab has worked like a maniac to get this experiment underway. Now all that remains is to jump off the experimental cliff and see what happens.

This is a moment of truth if there ever was one, cross your fingers for us.

Reviewer Blues

I got news for y’all. All that advice people give you about making grants easy on the tired reviewers eye. Live by every freaking word. Things I realize now that I’m on the ‘other’ side of the grant:

1. Yes,  11 point Arial really IS that small. Geez. I’m going to have to stop at the drugstore and get some of those 5$ glasses that magnify stuff.

2. I now totally understand the logic of not filling the pages solid with text and leaving breathing space between paragraphs. TOTALLY, totally get it. I feel like I have to go down the page with that fluorescent green ruler I keep on my desk so I can see which line to go to next.

3.  Avoid having 3 aims and 25 sub-aims under each aim. Confuses the pucky out of the reviewer. Sometimes less is more.

4. Flow charts. FLOW CHARTS. of the experiments. A nice thing, reviewers like them, make life easier.

5. Dump as much jargon as you can. If you don’t dump it, you better explain it.

6. One figure per page. I fear that this is going to go away when people go down to 12 pages… but I’m pleading with you … keep some figures in there, they are worth 1000 words and they break up the text.

7.  Use your published work as preliminary data, this is a strength. But don’t propose to do that work again unless you have a really good reason and can explain it.

8. An organized SRO is a god-send.

9. Write a conclusion to sum everything up at the end and provide a reminder why said work is innovative, insightful, incredibly brilliant (sarcasm, people), and what the hypothetical next step might be.

10.  Add your own!

The Tricky Subject of Personal Hygiene

First a few rules for personal hygiene and working closely together:

1. Shower daily.

2. Wash clothes.

3. Deodorant, people!

This probably seems pretty obvious to you , but sometimes it is, well, NOT obvious to everyone. I’ve had a spate of discussions lately with colleagues, friends etc- about what to do about such issues as personal hygiene, the length of a trainees hair (is it a fire hazard, is it just unprofessional?), if anything. A colleague of mine tells endless stories about someone they once worked with in an open lab type situation that would pass gas loudly, just well- whenever.

Usually these discussions end with us giggling it up innocently (and somewhat uncomfortably) about what to DO about such situations that cross this tricky professional and interpersonal boundary.  How do you talk to a trainee that works for you about the fact that they are stinking it up for everyone else that works with them? When attire and personal appearance (long hair for example) are safety hazards- that makes it pretty straightforward to deal with. But how do you mention that professional dress and personal presentation ARE important when your students are TAs for undergrads?  Probably pretty simple if you are just mentioning that the teaching dress code is something other than jeans and a T-shirt- but do you ever cross the line into grooming habits?!  And what about gender- cause I imagine just for example- if you were a male PI you might have to tread lightly around some of these subjects with female trainees.

I know, it seems obvious, but it is just NOT.

Hot Scientific Equipment/1

One of the things you don’t know about me is that I’m a gadget geek. Back when I started dating my husband I bought a new stereo system.  While I was connecting this part to that part, he was making a lunch… and things haven’t changed much since then in this department. My favorite gifts are gadgets- I’ve got a purse full (the bigA has inherited this obsession).

But- I’m not going to post about my personal gadgets here (you can all get your heads out of the gutter NOW), my gadget obsession extends to scientific equipment and power tools that I purchase for the lab. Heck, if Isis can show you pictures of shoes she adores, I can show you pictures of the lab equipment I covet. I’ve got some humble tastes- and some not so much.

We’ll do relatively humble and low tech now, and move on to robotics, HTS sequencing etc later. This little devil is my favorite purchase as an assistant professor, (as I reveal  just exactly how much of a geek I really am). I give you – the Ultra Turrax T25 grinder…

Ultra Turrax T25Now I know you are SHOCKED by my geekishness- but I just love this thing. Some labs that do what we do, smash tissue using a whirl-pak bags and a hammer… but I like my thumbs, thanks. I’m practically deaf from the old grinder we used to use, and this bad boy is so awesomely quiet that we can actually have a conversation over coffee while grinding samples for an hour or two. Well, if we weren’t working on food borne pathogens and if coffee was allowed in the lab, that is.  And nothing gets stuck up in the dispersing tool and has to be cleaned out with forceps- it all gets properly dispersed like it is supposed to.  I love it!

My students think I’m a total nutcase because I comment about how this is one of my most favorite pieces of equipment that we own…like on a daily basis.

Of course, I am a total nutcase sometimes. I’m getting a quote for big time PCR equipment right now.